Tag Archives: Syd Barrett

Listening to Early Pink Floyd, Smoking Dope and Talking Wild Philosophy

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Cover of "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn&...

Cover of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

 

In the later Spring of 1997 the glow of gritty, punk-infested grunge rock paired with experimental art rock began to fade into a glimmer.  A new type of “pop-alternative” began to invade the charts.  Bands like The Verve Pipe with their hit “The Freshmen” and Third Eye Blind with their hit “Semi-Charmed Life” (a song about snorting meth-amphetamines…  a metaphor veiled by upbeat pop riffs) began to take things over.  Alternative music had reached its pinnacle of commercialism.

Mitchell, Duane and I still called ourselves Mulberry Tree.  We were getting into Pink Floyd’s early records with Syd Barrett, “Piper at the Gates of Dawn” (1967) and “Saucerful of Secrets” (1968).  The LSD infused songs would prove to be foreshadowing of things to come…

We were also into Primus and other strange art rock.  Most of the music we did was either highly philosophical or a deep cynical mockery-melody.  I know it’s a lot to say for 15 and 16 year-old sophomores in high school, but we were awfully pretentious for our age.

I decided go after Harmony’s friend Laila, to see if she would go out with me.  “Going out” was a statement we used to say that we were going to feign exclusivity with each other, as if we were pseudo-adults.  Laila reciprocated interest in me and we began to “go out”.  She was certainly cute and I dug her.  I would often go and meet her at her house.  We’d go for long walks and smoke cigarettes.  We’d occasionally stop to make out.  I began to fall for her.

I just wasn’t the kind of kid that would go on with something like this half way.  It was easy for me to substitute my feelings for Harmony with feelings for Laila.  I mean, after all, Harmony was going out with my good friend and bass player Mitchell, and they were hitting it off!  I might as well move on.

Of course I went to extremes.  I wrote poems for Laila.  I even wrote a 10 minute opus called “Stir” for her- a song of my naïve love.  She seemed to dig it and all was well.  Our relationship continued to move forward.  Every chance I got, I would tout that fact in Harmony’s face.  Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy? (Prov. 27:4)

Marijuana was still a normal part of life, as was booze.  They almost seemed to be a peripheral addition to our little soap opera version of Rock n’ Roll High School.  I got high whenever I felt like it.  Mitchell, Duane, Laila, Harmony and I, and others who made up our little group of dissidents would often acquire liquor or beer for the weekends, and mix it with dope, cigarettes and caffeine.  Some of us would end up making out at the end of the night, and then we’d figure out lies to tell our parents about where we were.

In reality we existed in the cornucopian underground of our little microcosm of society.  We partied with Juniors and Seniors in High School.  We were beginning to make acquaintances with people in college.  It seemed as our tolerance for inebriation grew, we began to be accepted into some sort of secret bohemian society.  We would end up in various dark basements, smoking bud and talking wild philosophy.  We’d jam with various musicians.  We’d speculate on whether or not the earth was some sort of vortex into the next dimension, or upper plane of existence beyond us.  Or if we were living in a nihilistic wasteland that had no eternity beyond, trudging around aimlessly like lumps of scientific goo towards no destination.

This all led into the next years’ Rock Fest.  Just like the year before, Rock Fest was a collection of the bands in our High School.  It was a chance for us to express our music live.  In traditional fashion, me and the boys in our band Mulberry Tree went up to the upstairs bathroom and preceded our performance with a shared cigarette in a dark bathroom after school hours.  We had a wild show planned.  It was full of deeply aggressive music.  I was sure to blow my voice out.  It was also filled with sentimental songs.  I hoped that my cigarette and dope blown vocal cords would hold out.

We did the show in aggressive fashion, sweating our brains out, bashing our heads into cymbals, jumping into the air and putting on a spectacle.  As expected, my voice blew out, so I just yelled most of the lyrics for the songs into the microphone, imitating one of my musical hero frontmen- Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins.

We played a number which was co-written by my cool Wiccan hippie girl friend Elysia.  It was one of our personal favorites and the crowd really dug it.  Laila was jealous though.  I assured her that I only had feelings for her but she didn’t believe me.  We got in a fight about it in the parking lot and she was really spooked.  Maybe it was the fact that she was so serious about me and we were so young.  I was serious about her too.  I hoped things would work out.

After us, a band of some friends of ours went on to play who called themselves “Discordant”.  Their name described their communal habit of drinking an excessive amount of beer at a religious rate.  Of course, they played all the latest hits on the radio including “The Freshmen” by the Verve Pipe.  We had only played covers that no one knew, like “Corporal Clegg” by Pink Floyd, which amused us, but not many others.  Discordant was a hit.  They had become a household name at the High School, replacing us in our perceived pop stardom.  Of course in our callow High School minds we despised them thoroughly.  All the more reason to slip deeper into addiction and “stick it to the man”.

Rock Fest had gone well, and the party after is a blur in my memory.

A week later I got the news from Harmony on the phone.  Laila had cheated on me with Jimmy Snarks.  She had done something far heavier than we had ever done physically with him in the woods at Colony Park in Hudson, Ohio.  I was crushed to the core.  I wrote songs about it.  I resolved never to be messed around with again like that.  My ego started to inflate.  It was nearing the summer of 1997, and my G.P.A. cumulative was about a 2.13, a C minus average.  I was on a quest to get over on Laila.  I wanted to shed off the status of virginity, which my classmates saw as a handicap to man-hood.  I was ready to party harder than ever, abandon my scruples more than ever, and slip into a focused destruction more than ever.

Looking back I see the downward spiral so clearly.  If I knew then what I know now I may have caught myself ahead of time.  Yet most nights, I was left to myself.  It was as if alluring eidolons were encircling me, inspiring me to write dismal poetry and spurring me on to the next level of neurosis.  I buried my feelings for Harmony even more deeply inside of me.

Harmony and Mitchell began to tire of each other.  She was a hippie girl and Mitchell was an athlete.  They just didn’t have enough in common.  When they broke up I forced myself to be intentionally disinterested.  I wasn’t going to risk my heart to her.  The lyrics of late Nirvana member Dave Grohl described what I felt toward Harmony, as well as my own wrecking, in his song “Monkey Wrench”:

What have we done with innocence?

It disappeared with time

It never made much sense.

Adolescent resident

Wasting another night on planning my revenge.

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My Bad Trip on LSD

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LSD

LSD (Photo credit: Max Sparber)

Acid is a mysterious, strange, and unpredictable drug.  I know a varied audience of mixed background and belief will read what I write, so it’s so important not to lie.  There are times when one takes acid, or any other drug for that matter, and it feels in that moment as if it’s the greatest, most euphoric, meaningful experience of your life.  However, there is no guarantee of this happening consistently.

Drugs are the ultimate Russian roulette of the mind.  For the extreme magnification of ecstasy, meaning and inner revelation that can come from drug experiences, there is also the extreme opposite.  When one has a bad drug experience it is REALLY terrible.  There have been many people who have never returned home to the cocoon of sanity after having a bad trip or a number of bad trips on LSD.  This is the great deception.  For further thoughts on why I believe a great force of evil is behind the lure of drugs, read this post:http://benjaminbradfordwhite.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/satan-is-a-drug-dealer…-reflections-on-genesis-225-37/

Syd Barrett, who was the original singer in the band, Pink Floyd, was an example of a man who completely lost his mind on LSD and psychedelics.  Many have said that he was also schizophrenic.  I’m not sure whether that is true or not, but I do know that the guy did an ungodly amount of acid in a very short period of time.  He became like a walking vegetable by the time that the end of 1967 rolled around.

Just as the Pink Floyd were becoming an international hit on the music scene, Syd Barrett tripped himself into oblivion.  Here we can see him on “American Bandstand” being interviewed by the late, great Dick Clark:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MMMN0VZmYw

You can see from this old piece of film that there was a “look in his eye, like black holes in the sky” as the lyric about him from “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” stated in 1975.

It’s strange to say it now, but around the time of the summer of 1998, I became enthralled with the story of Syd Barrett and his brain’s demise in the midst of psychedelic pop stardom.  I found books and archives about him.  I listened to his solo music after he had gone off his rocker.  I mostly listened to “Piper at the Gates of Dawn”, Pink Floyd’s seminal first album, where Syd was at his creative height.

I suppose it was a combination of anger, marginalization by friends, estrangement from my parents, and bewilderment towards the existence of God that led me towards wanting to “ride the edge” of sanity.  As the summer of 1998 kicked in… my summer before senior year of high school, I delved into the most extreme use of psychedelics ever.  I quit my job at Tai-Wah restaurant, and pledged to “trip” my way through the summer.  I hadn’t viewed yet into the wisdom of Solomon, when he said, “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”  (Ecclesiastes 1:14)

Quite the contrary, I believed that my pursuit was full of meaning at the time.  Somehow I believed I would come out on the other end a changed person… for the better.  The words of the ancient prophet Isaiah didn’t ring in my ears; “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20)  I suppose, in ignorance, I believed that everything I was about to encounter was good, full of radiant light and sweet to the taste.  All of my experiences on psychedelics had been good thus far, and I didn’t think I would go too far like Syd Barrett did.  I would just skim the crest of the cliff of craziness.

At this point, I was playing drum set in a steel drum band with a group of my friends.  The band was loosely affiliated with our High School, but we played almost all of our events outside of the school.

The greatest gig we ever did was playing at the Cleveland Museum of Art’s annual summer art parade.  It was a sunny, hot and humid Ohio day~ ninety degrees and clear skies.  David Wilt was in the band.  At this time he was my regular supplier of psychedelic drugs.  He had hits of blotter acid with him, and I bought a few from him.  We egged each other on that we ought to take it before we played in the parade.  Of course it didn’t take much to convince each other, David took a hit, and I took 2, about an hour before we were going to play.  At this point, even David was more sensible than me.  He didn’t want to be too out of it while we played in the parade.  I wanted to be completely delirious.

We had all our instruments on a long, rectangular float.  As we set everything up I began to feel my body going numb.  Our band’s director, Mark Bush, asked me if I wanted to play the drum set or push the float in the parade.  I mumbled in spaced-out confusion, “Uhhhh…  yeah man I think I’ll push the float man.”

This parade was the craziest parade I’ve ever seen, especially because of my state of mind.  There were people walking around on stilts with wild, colorful masks and streamers flowing behind them in the wind.  The masks were representative of many different cultures of the world:  Chinese dragons, Indian elephants, African tribal witch doctors, and native American eagles.  The colors were of starburst yellow, purple indigo, crimson red, electric orange, and many more.

We made our way into the parade.  I was pushing one end of the float and a girl, Darby Plum was on the other end of this rectangular apparatus.  As we moved on in the parade and played our Caribbean style, Jamaican, reggae-funk, the acid started to beat down in my brain.  Right in the middle of the parade, I was experiencing what is called the “peak” of my trip, where the effects of the drug were the strongest.

I literally felt like I was in Candy Land, all of these freaky people on stilts with masks on making a child-like visual landscape before my wild eyes, I was enthralled beyond description.  There were moments where I literally stopped in the middle of the parade, just to stare at all that was happening around me.  Yet I also had a duty, to push this float.  A simple duty it would seem, but there were times when the float would reach a 45 degree angle, with Darby Plum doing her job pushing on the other side, and me standing there, a long haired hipped-out kid with his tie-dye shirt on, staring at these gallivanting masked minions which practically seemed to be staring into my soul.  I barely was able to do my job of pushing this float through the parade, because I kept stopping to stare at all that was going on.  I had the whole band on my case too, saying, “C’mon Benny!  What are you doing?  Push the float!!!”

So we made it to the end of the parade, and I don’t really remember much of what happened after.  This was one of the best LSD experiences I ever had, because the visual display and happy feeling at the parade was so positive.  Granted, I did an embarrassing job of pushing the float along, but I wasn’t in any way traumatized by the experience.  This is the great trickery that lurks within the pursuit of drug “enlightenment”.  One has experiences that lead them into perpetual beguilement.  I was thinking to myself, “Man, LSD is the greatest thing that exists!  I can’t wait to have another trip!”  But one can never predict the situation they will find themselves in.

But much like a mountain climber who wants to defy the odds and reach a higher peak of danger, I wanted to go deeper into the rabbit hole…  I was about to have my first bad trip…

It was a dark and dreary July evening.  My friend Mitchell had come over to my house to help me record guitar tracks on a song that I had been working on for 3 months… the only song I had recorded in the past 3 months…  an 8 minute opus called “Trilogy”.  Again, I was the kind of guy that wrote 4 or 5 songs a month at least back then, and psychedelic drugs had put me on a weird tailspin, giving me a deep, confusing case of writers’ block.

I had scored 2 hits of acid the week before at an infamous hole full of hardcore hippies and drug dealers called “Nelson’s Ledges”.  These were where the hard-core druggies spent a lot of time.  I went there to jump off of a 15-foot cliff into the deep water below, and had run into some space pirate hippies that sold me two hits of what they called “Wizard of Oz” blotter acid.  They told me it was really strong, and recommended taking only one hit.

While Mitchell and I were recording, I popped both hits on my tongue.  Within 30 minutes, I began to feel the numbing effects and body buzz taking over my entire anatomy, and it was peculiar, because it normally had taken an hour before.  Mitchell was finishing up his guitar tracks.  At one point, he looked at me and said, “Are you alright man?  You look kind of freaked out!”  I tried to ignore the fear that this statement had instilled in me, but I was alarmed that this LSD was stronger than I was ready for.

The next memory I had was being at a party, about an hour later.  This party was full of drunken people that had once been friends of mine.  Because of my heavier drug use, they had distanced themselves from me.  I remember a moment when Braden Sipes came up to talk to me.  He was drunk and mocking me, saying, “So Benny, how you been buddy?  You been “TOKING IT UP” lately huh?  Hahaha…”  The words seemed to echo and his face distorted as he said it.  All around him, shadow mites of darkness swirled around in a tornado of madness.  I barked back at him;  ”DON’T MOCK ME OR I’LL STRANGLE YOU RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW!!!”

It was as if a phantom had entered into me in that moment.  Some kind of demon of a dark force of which I knew nothing of.  I only know that this moment of anger seemed to overtake my entire brain and body at that moment, and I had no awareness of who I was.  Braden stared back at me in fear for a moment, and then walked away…

The trip continued, and is a blur in my memory.  I know that the effects of the LSD went completely haywire.  I was in a dark fantasy world of which I had no control, nor escape.  The people I saw contorted into minions…  the very air I breathed seemed to be filled with acidic poison.  The back of my brain felt like it was melting off of my head.  I didn’t know then that LSD physically made your brain hemorrhage.  I only felt completely out of control.  I remembered reading of Mephistopheles in the legend of Faust.  Had I been overcome by some dark angel like him?  Would I ever make it out of this state of mind, or was I doomed to wear a straightjacket in a little white room for the rest of my life?

The profound, dark thoughts seemed to overcome my mind like a swarm of wasps…

The next memory I had was 3 hours later, being in my parents’ living room.  It was midnight, and somehow, my friend, Duane, had come to keep me company.  We were watching a re-run of the show, “The Wonder Years” on TV.  Whatever I thought in my mind, the main character of the show, Kevin Arnold, would become before my very eyes.  I thought of the Ku Klux Klan for some weird reason, and he grew a hood on the TV.  I thought of a werewolf, and he turned into one before my very eyes.  I told Duane, “I’m freaking out man!  I can’t control my mind…  I hate this man!”

Duane looked at me in bewilderment.  He was tired from smoking pot earlier, and told me he had to go home.  After all, it was midnight and he had a curfew to keep.  I begged him to stay with me and not leave me alone.  ”Duane, please man.  You can’t go.  I will die man, I WILL DIE!”

Nonetheless, Duane had to obey his parents’ rules.  He went home.  I was left to myself and the effects of this evil drug.

I looked on the ground in my parents living room as I sat there alone, and afraid out of my mind…  What appeared to be glowing ravens engulfed in fire began to appear in a pattern all over the floor and the walls.  They were intertwined in a pattern of hieroglyphics.  I looked on my hand and they were imprinted all over me as well.  I felt for certain that I was about to die and these patterns I was seeing represented all the horrible things I had done.  I sensed that a swift judgment was about to come upon me.  I was doomed… cursed.  There was no way out and I would leave this life condemned forever.

I tried to make my way through the night.  I had no one I could reach out to…  at least not that I was aware of…  I so desperately wanted to call my girlfriend Harmony, but it was 2 a.m.  I was sitting there in my bed freaking out, seeing the scroll of my life laid out before me in an interconnected life pattern that engulfed all of reality and nature.

The Goo Goo Dolls song “Iris” was high on the charts in those days, and it’s chorus accurately described this profound alienation:

And I don’t want the world to see me

Cause I don’t think that they’d understand

When everything’s made to be broken

I just want you to know who I am

I just wanted someone, anyone to be there for me.  I was too afraid to reach out to a higher power of any sort.  I felt too condemned, too dirty, too crazy and broken.  I wrote Harmony a long letter, describing my fear.  That carried me until 3 a.m.  Then I pulled out a VHS tape that contained the movie, “Forrest Gump”.  I began watching the 3 hour long feature to try and calm my fretful heart and mind.  From the moment where the feather began to lilt in the wind in the opening credits I was pulled into this movie like never before.  I cried practically the entire time it was on.  I was afraid for my soul…

As the sun arose at around 5:57 a.m. and the feather lilted in the air during the closing credits of “Forrest Gump”, I realized that the acid was finally beginning to wear down, and my wearied body would finally be able to sleep.  I cried as I watched the sunrise, and had a moment where I was simply thankful to be alive, and sane.

I had no understanding or knowledge of any religion or spirituality at this time.  But this profound feeling was very real.  I learned only years later that I was experiencing something on earth that Jesus talked often about…  This video is a very grim, but accurate picture of the way hell is truly described in the ancient scriptures:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxCKxxRU_s8

My Near Death Experience on Psilocybin Mushrooms

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Dried Psilocybe cubensis magic mushrooms.

Dried Psilocybe cubensis magic mushrooms. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One would have thought that one bad trip would have deterred me forever from the dark, uncontrollable mystic realm of the psychedelic trip world.  Because I had survived without slipping into insanity, I would jump and fall down the rabbit hole again.  The next time would be more severe than ever…  the most intense trip I had ever had.

“Intergalactic” by the Beastie Boys slammed the billboard charts of August of 1998, as the summer of my Junior Year came to a psychedelic dénouement.  Don’t get me wrong, I was into the Beastie Boys.  But I had an entirely different soundtrack playing behind the hazy, multi-colored, chaotic mind-trip of that summer.

There were songs I listened to then that seemed to make perfect sense to me at the time.  I read the lyrics and listen to the melodies now, and can remember this revelatory feeling I felt then.  However, they seem to be strange, nonsensical riddles to me today.

I loved songs like:

Matilda Mother, a lilting nursery rhyme rocker by Syd Barrett and the Pink Floyd:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFgYdFkRA3I

A Day in the Life, a view of the newspaper headlines through the lens of psychedelic eyes by John Lennon and the Beatles:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xljFT44Y1Y

I Am the Walrus, a nonsense song that gives a window into the madness of tripping by John Lennon and the Beatles:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDfXo_jRFbI&feature=related

and Burning of the Midnight Lamp, a song which I always took to describe the insomnia that came with an intense drug experience by the Jimi Hendrix Experience:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rEBz–bWVY&feature=related

One song was “Mountains of the Moon” off of the Grateful Dead’s palindrome sprinkled 1969 album, “Aoxomoxoa”, which can be heard here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MiOKj84cOk.  Some of the lyrics state:

Cold mountain water, the jade merchants daughter,

Mountains of the moon, electra bow and bend to me.

Hi ho the carrion crow fol de rol de riddle

Hi ho the carrion crow bow and bend to me.

Today, I know that there are a great variety of influences in these lyrics, and they are a strewn together array of poetic suggestions.  The line about “Mountains of the Moon” may have reffered to Edgar Allan Poe, and “Electra” may have referred to the Greek goddess.

But as I listened to these words sung by the late Jerry Garcia in August of 1998, especially after the bad trip I had on LSD, they would make me weep.  My drug exploits were described in the words.  I wanted the “Mountains of the moon” to bow and bend to me.  I wanted to control the universe, or at least my universe.  I didn’t want to be controlled by any authority, no higher power, no institution, no parental figure, and no teacher.  I wanted to be my own authority, and create my own reality, my own sphere of belief and understanding.  I only realize now how misdirected my pursuit was.  If I could step into a time machine and speed into the past I would yell into the ears of the young, broken 17 year-old that I was.  I would exclaim, “Stop it man!  You don’t need to go any further!”  But you see, I had no idea the depths of insanity and despair that I was headed towards.  There was, however, a merciful omniscient One beyond the clouds who knew of where my journey would end.  He was about to give me the greatest glimpse of beauty and freedom that I had ever seen, and right at the moment when I least deserved it.

For some reason, I was able to deceive myself into thinking that the chemical nature of LSD was the reason why I had a bad experience.  I was persuaded that more natural substances were safer, because they grew from the earth.  One of these substances was the chemical “psilocybin”, which is found in magic mushrooms.

These mushrooms normally grow on cow dung, but are also grown by dedicated individuals that desire to cultivate a more potent species.

We had hippie friends, a couple named “Adam” and his girlfriend “Zen” who grew these mushrooms in their home and sold them.  I had bought a batch of mushrooms from them earlier in the summer, which had grey caps and faded white stems.  They weren’t a potent batch, and I decided to eat about an eighth of an ounce of them right away.  What ensued was a wild body buzz and a case of the unstoppable giggles that I couldn’t control.  I would stare at myself in the mirror for fifteen minutes at a time, puffing out my cheeks and watching my face inflate like a balloon, and then laughing and falling about myself.

I had convinced myself that mushrooms were the cleanest, safest trip.  I had danced with LSD and the demonic for awhile, probably about twenty trips or more, and the last one had been a view into hell itself.  In my mind, mushrooms were different.  I was convinced that they were a positive drug, more natural, and only gave one colorful, cheery hallucinations.  I had no idea of the deep, Lewis Carroll vortex that I was about to plummet into.

Not long after my bad LSD trip, a week after to be exact, I scored a quarter ounce of mushrooms from Adam and Zen.  They had home grown this batch using hydroponic growing methods, and Adam warned me, “Look man, don’t take a lot of these at once, alright?  They’re a lot stronger than normal!”  They certainly looked different than the other grey mushrooms I had bought from them, they had red caps, and the stems were bright white, and gooey.  The mushrooms were moist to the point of almost being slimy.  I assured Adam, “yeah man, no worries.  I’ll take a low dose.”

The next day, I woke up in the morning with this large bag of dangerous shrooms in my nightstand drawer.  My parents had left early to visit a mall somewhere in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio.  I had the day free and the overwhelming urge to trip on these psilocybin fungi.  Something dark, oppressive and heavy possessed me to eat a large amount of these red-capped mushrooms, mostly small ones, which had a more concentrated amount of psilocybin than the larger caps.  By the time I was done eating them I had made it through about sixty-six percent of the quarter ounce bag.  I had shunned the advice of Adam to eat a lower dose.  On top of that, I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet!  The realization of this alarmed me and I quickly ate sixteen saltine crackers, then I licked my fingers, and drank a glass of water.

I would often do impulsive things like this without a plan for my day.  I only knew that I was about to trip completely out of my mind, and that was my only agenda for the day.  I quickly phoned up my friend, Riley, who had acquired an interest in psychedelic experiences like me.  “Hey Riley, how’s it going man?”  I said on the phone.  “Good Benny, what’s up buddy?”  Riley vibrantly answered.  Riley had an intense personality, and could quickly go from being a vibrant, positive person to being angry and throwing things across the room.  “Dude…”  I said, “I just ate a butt-load of these red-capped mushrooms that Adam and Zen sold me, and am about to trip my brains out.  C’mon over and let’s hang out bro!  You can call up Adam and Zen…  and maybe take some too and we could trip together?”  Riley was always up for a chaotic experience, and replied, “Sure Benny, call em’ up and set up a time to meet, I’ll be by to pick ya’ up in 10 minutes man!”

I got a hold of Adam and Zen, and they agreed to meet us in Cuyahoga Falls at the Best Buy Department Store parking lot with a bag of these mystic, red-capped shrooms for Riley to take.  I even offered Riley some of mine, but Riley wanted some for himself, so we set up the deal and were on our way.

As we entered the Freeway ramp onto Route 8 South going towards Akron, Ohio, I began to start tripping.  The funny thing was, it had only taken Riley 7 minutes to pick me up, and maybe another 10 minutes to get to the freeway ramp.  I had eaten the mushrooms about 25 minutes before, and I was already tripping, and getting uncontrollably high.  I don’t remember anything that I said to Riley on the drive, just that he was amused by my crazy comments.

We arrived at the Best Buy in Cuyahoga Falls, and Riley bought an eighth of these cursed mushrooms from Adam and Zen.  We decided to go in and look around at Best Buy for a bit.  This was 1998, and Best Buy stores had signs depicting the music artists, bands and movie stars who topped the charts of popularity.  These apparatuses hung in the air from the ceiling.  I looked at these signs, and the skin from the faces of these people, which looked like demonic aliens from another world, began to melt off of the signs and drip into the aisles below.  I turned my head slowly towards Riley, and said, “I don’t feel so good man.  Do I look ok to you?”  Riley laughed, and it sounded like Dracula’s laugh to me.  He responded, “It’s funny man, but right when you said that, your face turned completely green!”

I don’t remember the car ride to Riley’s place. I do know that we got to his house and he immediately ate some of these red-capped psilocybin mind-destroyers.  He ate about half the amount that I did.  By this point I was in total hysterics.  I couldn’t walk without losing motor control and falling on the ground.  I would go from uncontrollably laughing to manic crying and sorrow.  Riley was becoming afraid of what these mushrooms were about to do to him!

I talked to Riley’s cat, Oscar, for awhile, and thought that he could see inside of my soul.  I looked at Riley’s carpet and saw what appeared to be life-size bacteria swarming around and multiplying.  The magnifying glass on the world below was getting larger than I could take.  I went into the bathroom and saw a swirling carousel of angry little fairies swarming around my head.

Fast forward a mind-time-lapse into an hour later…

We were outside.  The sun was shining with myriad clouds in the sky.  I began to have my “peak” experience on this horrible, intractable mind explosion.  I went to a realm of every color.  I went to the land of purple, where Riley looked like some sort of indigo monster from hell, and creatures of a violet tint scattered all around the grass around me.  I also experienced orange, yellow, red and blue realms.  I looked out into the grass and saw a silhouette shadow of a tormented man’s soul reach up from under the ground into the sky, seemingly longing to touch the edge of heaven’s gate or some form of luminescent light, a relief from torture.  But he was just as quickly sucked back underground to continue in his vexation.  I didn’t have any beliefs at the time, but I somehow knew that this man’s soul, and this affliction, was eternal.

I picked up the phone to call my girlfriend Harmony.  Our relationship had become so estranged.  I had to make things right.  I spoke out loud to Riley, in as intoxicated an accent as I’ve ever had, “Dude, if she doesn’t answer the phone I’m going to die!”

The phone rang once…  I paced facing the southeast, and murmuring statements of hope and promise.  “I love this girl, I know she’ll answer, I know she’ll be there!”  I looked like I belonged in a mental ward.  The phone rang the second time…  I paced towards the northwest, becoming the manic opposite of the contra-positive direction, I yelled out, “I know she won’t answer, I’ll die, I know I will!  I’m doomed!”

I paced back and forth four times as the phone rang in what seemed to be synchronicity.  Harmony’s answering machine picked up.  I yelled out to Riley and the universe, “That’s it.  I’m dead…”

I literally dropped to the ground with my arms folded across my chest like a corpse.  Riley told me about it later.  He said that my face went completely pale and he thought I was dead for good.

When I hit the ground, I lapsed out of time and space.  I saw the sky fold up like a book and there was a black abyss beyond it.  I felt my soul leave my body and was sucked up beyond the clouds.  I had no concept of the duration of this, and everything felt eternal, like a dream.  Visions of the end of my life also flashed before my eyes like a 24-hour movie in seconds of time.  I saw Harmony and my family crying as I was carried out of Riley’s yard in a stretcher towards an ambulance.  The entire scene of my death was played out before my very eyes. I do then recall seeing a man in a robe, holding a staff.  He met me in the air, and he waved his hand and sent me back down.  I actually saw my body lying there, as cold as a cadaver, as I sped back towards it as if I was falling from a skyscraper directly back into it.

I took a deep breath of life giving air and gasped.  I immediately sat up cross legged, and I desperately began to pray to whoever was out there.  This all happened right in front of Riley’s eyes, and he told me about it later.  I looked up into the sky and began to cry.  “Is there a purpose for me?”  I yelled up.  “If there is, give me a sign, please!”  As I said this the wind blew across my face.  I looked into the clouds, and they parted.  A glimmer of sunlight shone on me, and I could’ve sworn that I saw a vague outline of a face behind the clouds.  I felt this wave of comfort come over me, and cried more.  I had long hair pulled behind my ears and my tie-died shirt on, sitting cross-legged in a field and crying.  I couldn’t hear any audible voice, but I could hear this phrase in my heart, that I needed to “play music, and love people…”  The omnipotent force left me and I knew what I had to do.  I had to turn my life around and make everything right.  I had just encountered the God of the Universe.

Years later, I would read passages like Psalm 139:7-12, which would describe this experience:

I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—
but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.

Even at my lowest moment of fear, degradation and ignorance, the Lord of the Universe desired to show Himself to me.  I can’t describe this any other way, except to say that He is completely, totally loving.  It’s amazing that He just wants Himself to be known.  He won’t force Himself on anyone, but His beauty is breathtaking, life-changing and filled with wonder.

After this encounter, I ran into Riley’s house, and found anything in his fridge that could purge this poison out of me.  I chugged a half-finished 2-Liter bottle of root beer.  I took two slices of leftover pizza and scarfed them down.  Riley followed me inside, trying to calm me down.  He was beginning to trip himself as well, and after the experience I had a fear began to overtake him.  “Benny, calm down man!”  He said.

An hour and a half later, Riley would call the ambulance on himself, because he was afraid that he was dying.  He actually told me that for one moment of about 7 seconds, he had flatlined in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

“I need to call my parents and have them pick me up man!”  I yelled out at him.  “Where is your phone?!”  It’s as if an insane bout of conscience had overtaken me, and all of a sudden I wanted to change everything in my life.  Riley reluctantly gave me his phone.  I called my parents and my mom answered.

“Ma!”  I exclaimed.

“Ben!  Where are you?  Are you ok?”  My Mom instinctively answered.

“No I’m not ok Mom.  I need you to pick me up at Riley’s house!  I’m freaking out on drugs Mom, I need you to come and get me!”  I babbled on.

“Ben!  Oh my God!  Where are you?”

“At Riley’s house!  Uhhhh…  Dude, Riley!  Where is your house!”  I yelled.

“What’s the address of the house?”  My Mom emphatically asked.

“Dude, Riley!  What is the address of your house?”  I yelled at Riley.

“I don’t know!”  Riley responded.  The mushrooms had started to invade his mind.

“You don’t know the address to your house man?!”  I yelled back.

“Ummmm…  It’s ummm…  ‘Callender Drive’!”  Riley responded in inebriated confusion.

“Callender Drive Mom!”  I said on the phone.

“What’s the house number?”  My Mom urgently asked.

“Dude, Riley, what’s the house number?”  I asked Riley.

“I don’t know man!”  Riley yelled back, laughing an unstable cackle as he said it.

I don’t remember much after that, though I know that Riley began to freak out and go into the worst trip of his life.  I looked out the window and saw my parents with their grey 1991 Cadillac coming down Callender drive slowly, and looking for me.  I ran out of the house barefoot into the street.  I got in the backseat of the car with my Mom and fell into her arms.  I felt as if I was two years old again.  I began to cry and ask my Dad if everything would be ok.  He assured me as if he was the father I had as a youth again, “Ben, everything’s going to be ok.  You’re just freaking out.  It’s the drugs…”  We had a conversation about the mushrooms I had ingested, and they took me to the hospital.

At the hospital, a female Asian doctor had a conversation with me.  “Are you still hallucinating?”  She asked, as hair seemingly grew out of every orifice of her face.  “Uhhh…  yes…”  I replied back with fear.

We ended up back at the house that night.  After a good hearty meal of beef and vegetable soup and bread, I passed out for hours.  I just couldn’t stop crying and mourning over all the terrible things I had done to myself and to others.  I swore that I would get sober.  No more pot, no more booze, no more psychedelics.  I would turn over a new leaf.  The overwhelming realization that there was a God out there who was looking down on me entered my mind, and would never leave me again.  I had no idea who this God was.  What did He want from me?  Was it just a figment of my imagination?  He seemed so real, and yet I didn’t know if I could reach out to Him again.  I would not forget that feeling I had sitting cross-legged in the grass and talking to Him.  It was a memory that would haunt me in the months to come, as things spiraled further down…